Is this worth it? Should I bother? At what point does the “low” in “low-art” stoop so low it no longer justifies serious analysis?
In Bad Grandpa, Jackass daredevil-cum-actor Johnny Knoxville, under a thick layer of makeup and prosthetics, plays a disgusting geriatric who goes on a series of drunken adventures with his 8-year-old grandson.
The incorrigible Irving Zisman (Knoxville) gets his penis caught in a vending machine, cracks onto young women and is wheeled around in a supermarket trolley as his dead wife gradually decomposes in his car trunk.
Unsophisticated sight gags have long been a staple of popular comedy. Watching Charlie Chaplin destroy the scenery in a film like City Lights, smashing into things and pouring alcohol down a fat man’s pants, reminds us that when it comes to brainless laughs nothing much has changed.
With a risqué single purpose movie such as Bad Grandpa (the purpose: make ‘em laugh make ‘em laugh make ‘em laugh), appreciation inevitably comes down to a question of taste and to matters concerning “the line.” What it is; whether it is crossed; how often it is thrown up on.
For the record: yes, Knoxville and director Jeff Termaine (a Jackass alumni) cross it, but Bad Grandpa isn’t without a sense of art. It is styled with faux DIY aesthetic, as if indie rabblerouser Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers, Spring Breakers) left a home video out in the sun. The rhythm is fast and slaphappy. There are plenty of good punchlines for audiences willing to go along with it.
It’s refreshing to see Knoxville’s shtick redirected by Termaine, from reality TV dross milked to death in Jackass toBorat style pranksterism. You wouldn’t exactly call Bad Grandpa a measured reveal of a complicated personality, but a surprisingly strong sense of character lies at the heart of it.
Zisman is a preposterously inauthentic creation, but something rings oddly true of his foils and follies. In this sporadically hilarious off-colour comedy, stupid, misogynistic America is skewered by a paradoxical creation: an actor young and reckless enough to raise hell and a character old enough to know better.
Bad Grandpa’s Australian theatrical release date: November 14, 2013.